My vocation to the Augustinians...
is best described as learning how to take God's hints. Reflection over my life has yielded a profound awareness of God's continuing presence: that God created me to share and appreciate the common life. God's invitation was not easy to accept, especially when I did not know what a vocation specifically looked like. Each "yes" required the depth of humility which Jesus modeled. Christ asked me to trust that discernment would find a religious community which would "fit.” Grace led me to the congruent fraternity of the Augustinians.
I attended St. Lawrence Seminary High School, staffed by Capuchin Franciscans who were tremendous role models and familiarized me with religious life. I wanted to follow their example, yet I consciously evaded and suppressed the invitation. I fearfully and repeatedly prayed, "Not yet!" I mistakenly thought that common life was a sacrifice. Viewed only in terms of what I might lose, I was afraid God wanted to deprive me of fulfillment. The Augustinian Novitiate and friar friends have taught me that we are earthen vessels proclaiming the Gospel of Christ Jesus, broken yet joyfully redeemed. For the few sacrifices vows do require, Augustinians share the profound joy of friendship in community.
I studied political science at the University of Minnesota, primarily motivated by a professional interest in public service. Service animates my spirituality and is a defining value of any vocation to which God calls me. I worked part-time during the school year for federal, state, and local government. I loved it. And yet, my conscience always led me to defend those without American privileges of wealth, citizenship, or education. Augustine says, “It is by loving that one becomes a member of Christ; incorporated into the body of Christ… Love can never be separate. Choose for yourself what you love and the rest will follow.” (ep. Io. tr. 10.3) Love is the ingredient, perhaps the only ingredient, which will unify the broken world into the universal citizenship of Heaven. Discovery of what I truly love - service and politics – has allowed Grace to transform and incorporate these desires into the Body of Christ.
Initial discernment was difficult...
because of a common mistake: I avoided talking about it. I did not clarify important questions like, “How am I called to serve? What does a sign from God really look like?" So I turned to articles and blogs researching more than a general desire for priesthood - I sought a faithful fraternity. One of the most valuable resources available was the"Vocation Match" on Vision. It produced several possible communities based on interest, mission, and spirituality. Immediately the charism of the Augustinians stood out. Augustine's Confessions and personal struggle resonated with God's hints for service. Augustine's move from government orator to priest and eventually bishop was a personal challenge of emulation. And perhaps even more important, Augustine's legacy is communities of friends focused on unity and love.
The vocation office was a welcoming presence as Fr. Tom McCarthy, O.S.A., invited me into discernment with the Order. When we visited communities in Chicago, the Augustinians seemed to share something more than their friary: they shared fraternal love and respect. Their unique charism of unity and friendship propelled me to the Order. I was always greeted with WELCOME while my heart echoed WELCOME HOME.
God offers all of us hints:
...all of them calling us deeper into the Body of Christ. My discernment focused on how I might best serve the citizenry of Heaven while here on Earth. Christ was hinting me towards a broader constituency. It became clear He was calling me to serve in His Church. I have been graced to advocate for God's Kingdom through friendship with Augustinians.
What do you think?
Many men have similar stories to Jack's vocational journey. There are many others who don't... yet. Share your thoughts with us below in the comments section!